Trophic interactions between predatory protists and pathogen-suppressive bacteria impact plant health

Sai Guo, Chengyuan Tao, Alexandre Jousset, Wu Xiong, Zhe Wang, Zongzhuan Shen, Beibei Wang, Zhihui Xu, Zhilei Gao, Shanshan Liu, Rong Li*, Yunze Ruan, Qirong Shen, George A. Kowalchuk, Stefan Geisen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


Plant health is strongly impacted by beneficial and pathogenic plant microbes, which are themselves structured by resource inputs. Organic fertilizer inputs may thus offer a means of steering soil-borne microbes, thereby affecting plant health. Concurrently, soil microbes are subject to top-down control by predators, particularly protists. However, little is known regarding the impact of microbiome predators on plant health-influencing microbes and the interactive links to plant health. Here, we aimed to decipher the importance of predator-prey interactions in influencing plant health. To achieve this goal, we investigated soil and root-associated microbiomes (bacteria, fungi and protists) over nine years of banana planting under conventional and organic fertilization regimes differing in Fusarium wilt disease incidence. We found that the reduced disease incidence and improved yield associated with organic fertilization could be best explained by higher abundances of protists and pathogen-suppressive bacteria (e.g. Bacillus spp.). The pathogen-suppressive actions of predatory protists and Bacillus spp. were mainly determined by their interactions that increased the relative abundance of secondary metabolite Q genes (e.g. nonribosomal peptide synthetase gene) within the microbiome. In a subsequent microcosm assay, we tested the interactions between predatory protists and pathogen-suppressive Bacillus spp. that showed strong improvements in plant defense. Our study shows how protistan predators stimulate disease-suppressive bacteria in the plant microbiome, ultimately enhancing plant health and yield. Thus, we suggest a new biological model useful for improving sustainable agricultural practices that is based on complex interactions between different domains of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1932-1943
Number of pages12
JournalISME Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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